Dealing with Divots
Small wonder! The National Golf Foundation reports that the
average seasonal daily play today on an 18-hole course is about
150 rounds. That's about 30,000 rounds of golf a year for
each of the nation's 18-hole courses. That adds up to a lot
of divots and a lot of repair work.
When golf was young, the teeing ground was a small area. Since
there was not a great deal of play and the tees were mowed by
hand, a good grass cover was possible. But in time as the number
of golfers increased, good grassy tees became more difficult and
more costly to maintain. The only answer to the problem lies in
larger tees and a constant divot repair program.
Next to providing a level stance for the golfer, size is the most
important tee consideration. Without enough ground, grass cannot
recover from heavy divoting and traffic. Luckily, it is easy to
calculate how much area is needed. For par-4 and par-5 holes, 100
square feet of usable area is required for every 1,000 rounds of
golf annually. For par-3 holes, 200 square feet is needed. Tees
meeting these general guidelines will have a better chance of
keeping a dense cover throughout the playing season. This is an
important consideration for anyone planning to rebuild old tees
or designing new ones.
The use of fast growing grasses on tees with divot problems is
another aid. In northern climates, some favor Penncross bentgrass
while others prefer improved perennial ryegrasses. In southern
areas, various burmudagrass and zoysiagrass varieties are the
choice. Obviously there are growth rate differences, even among
grasses of the same species. For example, the faster growing
Vamont bermudagrass is preferred over the slower growing Midiron
bermudagrass for tees where these varieties are adapted.
Good tees, regardless of the grass species, absolutely require
very close attention to fertilization rates, irrigation needs and
pesticide protection. These needs are even greater when cutting
heights are lowered and grass clippings collected. Many tees have
become an intensive management area.
Although there are no set rules for divot repair programs, the
greatest hope of all remains with the golfer himself. If every
golfer would only repair his own ball marks and replace his own
divots, the nation's golf courses would be conspicuously
improved and noticeably less expensive to maintain. Proper
etiquette calls for this, but too few hear the call. Surely, if
golfers would limit their practice swings to off-tee areas only,
a tremendous leap forward could be made. The practice of placing
top-dressing containers on par-3 tees has made a small comeback
in recent years after being commonplace in the 1920s and 1930s. A
few clubs use the topdressing containers as tee markers and some
have also included small top-dressing containers on every
electric golf cart. Each container holds the divot top-dressing
mixture, seed and a scoop. The scoop is used to place topdressing
over the scar left if the divot is destroyed.
The self-repair approach, unfortunately, receives only mixed
reviews. Many golfers are apathetic. Agronomically, it
doesn't take long for the seed to germinate in the mix and
the helpful golfer may find a mass of vegetation in the
container. One solution is to place the seed in a dispenser, like
a salt shaker, to keep it dry and prevent germination. But each
new step in the self-repair process only seems to complicate and
discourage its use even more.
The best approach to divot repair is a regular program by the
professional grounds staff. The professional staff is more
proficient than most golfers in judging how much topdressing to
place over an old divot hole. Usually, doing the work once or
twice a week is enough if the tees are sufficiently large. Most
often, one or two crew members apply the divot mixture by hand to
the injured areas. The next step is to smooth the area with a
shovel and then off to the next tee. Devoting time to divot
repairs pays dividends. The golfers, too, become more
conscientious about repairing injured turf when they see that the
professional staff is devoting time to it.
The divot mixture used by the professional staff is usually one
of seed, soil, and/ or sand. Seed germination of cool season
grasses such as bentgrass, is more difficult in sand alone. On
the other hand, actively growing warm season grasses will readily
spread in pure sand and rapidly cover without the need of
additional seed and soil.
Good tees and a dense, uniform turf cover undeniably add to the
enjoyment and attractiveness of every golf course. Good tees
don't just happen. They must be of adequate size, have the
proper grass, and, follow a conscientiously planned management
and divot repair program. Good tees cost money. The enjoyment
they bring and the impression they leave make it all worthwhile.
What to do about divots? This is one of those little things that
every golf course superintendent must contend with but can never